The AKER programme offers sugar beet tremendous potential for genetic materials, tools and methods to serve the sector.

September 18, 2020. An international scientific symposium bringing together more than 150 participants closed the AKER Future Investments Programme - Sugar beet 2020 “A competitive innovation”, at the end of 8 years of work carried out by 11 partners and around one hundred employees.

The context has changed since 2012

Since the launch of the AKER programme in 2012, the context of the beet industry has changed a lot. Global competition from sugar cane has intensified; the sugar quota regime ended in 2017; global warming is on the rise; new pests and diseases, such as viruses, appear or intensify; societal demands are becoming more and more pressing. In this context where the increase in beet yield has slowed down or even stopped, the AKER programme has accomplished the mission assigned to it at the outset, namely to double the annual growth rate of sugar beet yield in sugar by hectare.

New, efficient and long-lasting genetic material

The AKER programme corresponds to a paradigm shift in the field of research and sugar beet breeding, namely making prediction (genotyping before phenotyping) and managing variability by seeking diversity in the exotic genetic resources available through the world. If the results obtained show an already high overall sugar content in sugar beet, on the other hand they demonstrate a root yield of up to 112% of the controls. The results are even more interesting on criteria of resistance to diseases such as Cercospora. In the short term, breeders are able to detect a group of hybrids with confirmed performance that could be submitted for registration to the CTPS (Standing Technical Committee for Selection) in 2022. From there it will take two more years registration and one year of recommendation, ie three years before their marketing. In the medium and long term, AKER will make it possible to produce high-performance varieties by introducing interesting fragments of the genome of reference plants into existing varieties, in a time step of 7 years instead of 12 years previously. The AKER programme therefore offers a tremendous potential for diversity which will make it possible to answer new questions that are bound to arise today and tomorrow, such as resistance to certain pests and diseases or to water stress.

Phenotyping tools and methods for R&D and sugar beet cultivation

AKER researchers from all disciplines have developed phenotyping tools (evaluation of traits) at all stages of sugar beet cultivation, from seed to harvest. These tools were used for the needs of the programme, namely to test the 3,200 hybrids produced, but they will have applications well beyond in routine for R&D and all players in the sector. All these tools meet the future challenges of sugar beet cultivation: adaptation to early sowing in cold conditions to lengthen the growing period, adaptation to increasingly frequent summer water stress ... while supporting the development of varieties that are less dependent on phytopharmaceutical products (herbicides, fungicides) and less nitrogen intensive. Finally, the AKER programme makes a dynamic contribution to modern agriculture. The benefit for the consumer and the taxpayer lies in the local production of quality sugar. This production sustains a sector and jobs on French and European territory, under favorable ecological and economic conditions for farmers, manufacturers and consumers.

Christian Huyghe, scientific director Agriculture INRAE, AKER project manager : « The prospects for the AKER program are extremely rich. In terms of genetic progress, the very significant increase in diversity makes it possible to envisage significant progress for the major agronomic characters, and this for several decades. »

Bruno Desprez, president of Florimond Desprez Veuve & Fils, chairman of the coordination committee for the AKER programme : « AKER brings remarkable scientific production, concrete, measurable results useful in the medium and long terms. From this point of view, it has become essential. »

Vincent Laudinat, general manager of the Technical Institute for Sugar Beet (ITB), chairman of the interprofessional committee for the AKER programme : « The AKER program contributes, directly or through the spin-offs of its many other research projects, to strengthening the sector and ensuring its sustainability. »

A book presents the objectives, work, results and prospects of the AKER programme:
Sugar beet - A competitive innovation
Editions Quae –
Available on demand

A press kit is also available on demand


Press Contact : Philippe Pelzer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 06 50 17 05 29 Twitter: @AKERBett

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